A Free Book but sadly, no Easter egg!

A Freebie for Easter!

To be honest, I’d like both – a free book and an Easter egg – but sadly the egg will have to wait until lockdown ends. Unless the Easter Bunny sneaks in through the back gate. However, I can manage the free book, thanks to my lovely publishers at Crooked Cat Books, so here it is: The Convalescent Corpse, absolutely free on Good Friday, Easter Saturday & Easter Sunday. Tell your friends (oh, go on, do!)

This picture shows Rosalie playing the part of Christabel, the narrator of The Convalescent Corpse.

A story of Family, Rationing and Inconvenient Corpses.
Life in 1918 has brought loss and grief and hardship to the three Fyttleton sisters.
Helped only by their grandmother (a failed society belle and expert poacher) and hindered by a difficult suffragette mother, as well as an unruly chicken-stealing dog and a house full of paying guests, they now have to deal with the worrying news that their late – and unlamented – father may not be dead after all.
And on top of that, there’s a body in the ha-ha.

An Amazon Bestseller, this book has been described as: a war story for people who don’t like reading about war. Funny, touching, witty, beautifully-written; it feels like an actual portrayal of the times.With Bobby, the inspiration for the Fyttleton family dog

With the characters’ struggle to maintain a normal family life (though ‘normal’ is never quite the right word for the Fyttleton family) during abnormal times, there are some echoes of the current crisis although I sincerely hope nobody has to resort to some of the meals described in the book. These, believe it or not, are taken from genuine recipes of the time.

I have a pull-out section from the March 1918 copy of the women’s magazine, Home Chat. ‘Plain Puddings and Cakes’. It’s a great example of how people – in this case, women – were encouraged to be resourceful because the recipes are very adaptable. For instance:
Date and Nut Pudding (Hot, boiled) If you can’t get dates, however, figs, soaked dried apples or any other dried fruit can be used for this. Or it is quite nice with a couple of spoonfuls of jam or marmalade instead of fruit. 

4 ounces each of barley or wheat flour, fine oatmeal and dried fruit, or you can use all GR* flour

2 ounces chopped suet or other fat

3 ounces chopped or ground monkey (peanuts) or other nuts

1 heaped teaspoonful baking powder

Half a pint water or any fruit juice


Stone (if necessary) and chop the fruit. Simmer in half the water for 10 minutes

Mix all the dry ingredients then work in the stewed fruit and water, adding as much more water as required to make a firm dough

Form into a roly-poly shape, tie up securely in a cloth, and put into plenty of boiling water. Boil for two hours then turn out and serve with a sweet sauce. (NB there’s a recipe for a thin, rather nasty sounding custard in the pull-out too)

*GR Flour: ‘G.R.’ (government regulation) flour. This flour was milled coarser than its pre-war equivalent, so that less grain could be used to make the same amount of flour.

I haven’t made this recipe but here are some I made earlier. Hampshire Pie which is strangely lacking in pastry, so it’s a cheek to call it a pie! Or Savoury Fried Oatcakes aka cold porridge mixed with anything you can find and then fried.

So there we are – a distraction from being stuck in lockdown, complete with murder, mystery, authentic recipes and possibly galloping indigestion! Here’s the Amazon link: http://mybook.to/TheConvalescentCorpse And seriously, folks, keep safe!

The Hares of Ladywell

My last blog post was entitled: Licet esse beatis It is permitted to be joyful. Well, I think we all know that joy is in considerable demand at the moment, so this post tells how the hares came to be such a vital – and joyful – part of The House at Ladywell and the seasonal sequel, Christmas at Ladywell.

The House at Ladywell combines my passion for history and for mystery. Back in the mid-1990s I wrote a book about a young woman who inherited a very old house in Hampshire and although it got some excellent rejections! I ended up shelving it. Every now and then I would think about it until, in 2015, I realised that the story was incomplete. Instead of a purely contemporary novel, I needed to tell the story of the very old house I’d dreamed up, which is how The House at Ladywell became a multi-timeline novel, combining a modern love story with several glimpses of the history of the house, as well as a few mysteries (because I can’t resist them).

I still had the twenty-year old early version of the story but I only used it as a reference while I re-wrote it completely. About a third of the way into the book, I decided I wasn’t happy with the viewpoint, so I tried writing in the first person, something I’d never done, but luckily the story came alive. So far so good. A month or so later it was clear that something else was lacking. I needed a running theme, something to connect past and present, and that’s when the hares of Ladywell turned up.

Harvest Hare by Nicky

Tentatively, I introduced a hare into the Roman story and felt pleased with it, so from then on the hares of Ladywell became completely real to me and added new depths to the history of the ancient and modern aspects of the old house and its family. I explored the connection again in the follow-up novella, Christmas at Ladywell, and was pleased to expand the story of the hares.

This one’s a tad chubby for a hare but I’m fond of him!

But why hares in the first place? Because I’ve belonged to a local art workshop for years and one day, for no particular reason, decided to paint a hare! It worked so I painted more and sold them – including one at an open exhibition at the Southampton Art Gallery! Now, if I can’t think what to paint, I default to painting a hare, and the more I discovered about these strange and mystical animals the more I was hooked.

It’s been a delight to learn that readers also love the hares, as well as the hints of magic and myth that they bring to the story – and several kind readers have even given me ornamental hares, among them a  sweet little metal hare who sits on my mantelpiece and a tiny silver hare in the shape of a lapel pin! Sadly, I’ve never seen a hare close up, only running rapidly in the opposite direction, but I do have my magical hares at Ladywell!

Tiny hares, 2″x 2″ canvas

I hope everyone is coping with lockdown and isolation. We’re lucky enough to have a garden with a wood at the bottom so we have plenty to do and to see. Here’s hoping we all get through this testing time, and remember, even at times like this, it is still permitted (as often as possible) to be joyful! xx




“It is permitted to be joyful”

Taken in my garden in the summer – just because…

Licet esse beatis – It is permitted to be joyful

I came across this motto recently – it’s from of one of those ancient families who’ve turned their white elephant of a stately home into a self-supporting asset. It seems to me to be a necessary reminder that while all around us, including the weather, is grim and grey and dire and drear, we should remember, now and then, to laugh!

Years ago, when I was a very young mum, I took part in a cookery competition run by Woman’s Realm, a long-defunct weekly magazine for women. This entailed spending a night in a London hotel with the other eleven finalists and actually cooking my masterpiece live on TV at the Mermaid Theatre. Wendy Craig was one of the judges but I don’t remember the programme; it was one of those after-the-news magazine round-ups.

Accordingly, I left my very young baby with my very young husband and went to London, an adventure even though we only lived in Hillingdon which was on the Metropolitan Line. The other contestants were friendly and fun, years older than I was, but I spent a lot of time that evening over dinner talking to one woman in particular.

I don’t remember her name but she told me she had been in a concentration camp and showed me her tattooed number. One of the most difficult things she’d had to face in the decades following her release was that people found it impossible to believe when she said that above all the horrors, she remembered mostly the laughter, the jokes and the love of the other women. Often listeners would actually be affronted at the very idea – almost as though it was impossible that anything could have mitigated the suffering, but as she said, it’s human nature to find moments of calm, of happiness, of joy, in even the worst situations.

It’s a lesson I’ve never forgotten so, as we face a winter of political turmoil, beastly weather and Heaven knows what else, remember: It is permitted to be joyful. 

As for me, there’ve been quite a few joyful moments lately, from loving friends and family as well as fabulous reviews for my digital-only novella, Christmas at Ladywell, follow-up to the (ahem) award-winning and best-selling The House at Ladywell. Here are a few of the comments: Enchanting, magical, heart-warming, satisfying, engaging, gorgeous, charming, warm, compelling, wonderfully written and entertaining.

All of which, I hope, will make you want to read it as a Christmas treat! (And if you enjoy it, tell your friends and – if that’s your thing – a review on Amazon would be lovely!) mybook.to/ChristmasatLadywell

 As if that’s not enough, there’s a story of mine in  the fabulous anthology of stories about Richard III mybook.to/RichardIIIAnthology

Don’t forget – however horrendous the world is, there will be moments to treasure:            It is permitted to be joyful.


‘Chasing Angels’ by Sally Zigmond

I like mountains and always feel healthier when I’m in the Alps but I have to admit that one mountain seems much like another to me.
We took the train to the summit of the Jungfrau in 2006 and felt giddy up at the top and I’ve been to the museum in Zermatt where I learned about the tragic fate that overtook some of the party during the first successful attempt to climb the Matterhorn by Edward Whymper. That was in 1865 but did you know that almost thirty years earlier, in 1836, a woman (Henriette d’Angeville) successfully climbed Mont Blanc? She was the first to do so and very intrepid she must have been to go mountaineering in a bonnet and full skirt plus petticoats. I’ve no way of comparing mountain ascents but it sounds pretty impressive to me!

(I don’t have a photo of Mont Blanc but on the grounds that a picture of any mountain is better than none, this is the Gornergrat glacier looking towards the Matterhorn: we were there in June 2009 and it was snowing!

I certainly hadn’t heard of Henriette d’Angeville until I came across Chasing Angels by Sally Zigmond and it’s a fascinating, fictionalised story of determination and sheer bloody-mindedness!

Sally Zigmond’s sweeping historical novel, Hope against Hope, and her short stories are clever, thoughtful and literary, all qualities to be found in her novella, Chasing Angels, but what I hadn’t really expected – I don’t know why! – was the delightful, earthy humour! With a sure, delicate touch the author brings us Henriette, quirky, difficult – and determined to reach her goal, and her companion, Jeannette, even more stubborn, jealous of the angel Henriette is chasing, jealous of everyone.

This may be a short book but what Sally Zigmond has written is a big story and Henriette d’Angeville is fortunate to be introduced to modern readers by such an accomplished writer.

Ebook only published by Endeavour Media – and thoroughly recommended

News, some glad and some sad

My only excuse for the shameful neglect of this blog is that I’ve been very busy!  For several reasons, starting with this: xmasatladywell

When we came home from the USA in early May, after I’d won the Grand Prize for romantic fiction at the CIBA conference based in Bellingham in the beautiful Pacific North West, I thought I had no more to say about the characters in The House at Ladywell and prepared to carry on with the sequel to The Convalescent Corpse. However, I might have thought I was done with Ladywell but Ladywell wasn’t done with me and gradually the idea of writing a story about the house at Christmas wormed its way into my mind.

A short story, I thought; I’ve enjoyed seasonal stories from favourite authors so I felt I could come up with something suitable. The short story grew and grew into a novella, about a third of the length of the original book; my trusted readers both loved it (thanks, Liv and Sugar!)and eventually I sent it to my publisher, Crooked Cat Books. They also enjoyed it and it’s coming out on 4th November: in eBook only  (Details soon)

Christmas – a time for spilling secrets…

 Having refurbished her inherited house and upcycled her whole life in the process, Freya – now happily married to Patrick, and with a small child –  has to transform her tiny stone barn into a romantic hideaway for a mystery guest who is also looking for change. With Christmas only a week away, things don’t go according to plan…

In the past, old uncertainties are resolved when an elderly woman seeks the truth of a legend on Christmas Eve and confesses to a deception; a Tudor wife listens to a story that must never be repeated and is given a precious relic that must never be displayed; and in the early nineteenth century an old woman tells a younger one the story of the hares at Ladywell.

 Past and present are only a whisper apart when Freya learns of an astonishing discovery that will make Ladywell famous, but meanwhile her house is full of unexpected visitors, she has a turkey to cook – and a very special secret of her own that must be told.

Readers have told me they loved Ladywell and have asked for more, so I hope they’ll be pleased with this update, and who knows? The house might have more stories to tell…


Another piece of exciting writing news is running pretty much in parallel with my Christmas story. I’ve always been fascinated by Richard III, ever since I read Josephine Tey’s famous novel, The Daughter of Time. I was about thirteen and I’ve remained true to my historical crush ever since. His portrait hangs at the top of our stairs as it has for more than thirty years and last year I was intrigued to learn that an anthology of stories about the enigmatic king was to be published in aid of the Scoliosis Society – the condition Richard himself suffered from. Grant me the Carving of my Name was such a success that a second anthology is to be published in November this year – and I have a story in it, which is a huge thrill! Mine is called The Silent Boy and is adapted from a chapter in The House at Ladywell. If you’ve read my book, you’ll easily guess which  chapter – and you might learn a bit more about the very secret link between Ladywell and the King in the Carpark if you read the novella! The new anthology will be called Right Trusty and Well-Beloved, details when I get them.King_Richard_III__1666500a


As if two forthcoming publications aren’t enough, The House at Ladywell has recently gained Amazon Bestseller status and has a shiny gold sticker to prove it – another exciting milestone!


Later this month I’ll be gallivanting off on my own for a weekend in deepest Surrey, leaving the Resident Engineer in charge of the house! I’m booked to be the after dinner speaker on the Saturday and I’ll be talking about my own books with reference to authors who have influenced my writing.  A particular interest of mine, which I know is shared by the audience, is the way the First World War influenced books for girls and young women during and after the war. I’ve read so many of these books, written at a time when young women found a different future staring at them: too many future husbands dead but also hitherto unimaginable careers open to them. I know how they spoke and how their lives changed, which is probably why so many readers of The Convalescent Corpse have commented that reading it felt like time-travelling to 1918, it feels so authentically of the period.


And now for the sad news. When Scuba Dancing was published in 2005 I suddenly needed a website and a dear friend, Keri Thomas, came to my rescue. He designed and has maintained it all these years and when I later wailed that I thought I’d better have a blog, he designed that too. It was all done in kindness and friendship, though he was amused when I paid him in fudge! the photos of Winchester on the blog heading are all by Keri, who was a terrific photographer. Sadly, he died very suddenly two weeks ago, far too soon, and the Resident Engineer and I will miss him very much.

Here’s something gorgeous to finish with – a bespoke banner for Facebook, Twitter and other places to showcase my writing. Designed by Hugo Brookbanks.



Goodness, gracious me!

Chanticleer International Book Awards (CIBAs)



GRAND PRIZE WINNER for Romantic Fiction



Did you see what I did there? In my last blog post I mentioned that The House at Ladywell was a semi-finalist in the prestigious CIBA Book Awards and that the finalists and prize winners were to be announced at a Grand Banquet in Bellingham in Washington State on 27th April. Well, after some discussion the Resident Engineer and I decided we’d take a trip to the Pacific North West coast of the USA, so accordingly we flew into Seattle, rented a car and drove about ninety miles north to Bellingham, a pretty port that’s just on the US side of the border with Canada.

It’s such a beautiful part of the world, with the Pacific on one side and mountains on the other, as well as delightfully friendly people. We’d had a stopover a couple of years ago, in Vancouver, but that was autumn and the weather was wet and chilly; this time, the weather was wonderful and the air was sparkling and pure. We explored the countryside and visited the extensive tulip fields – surprisingly, that part of the world is second only to the Netherlands when it comes to tulip growing.

There was a cocktail party followed by the Grand Banquet on the Saturday so we scrubbed up accordingly and tucked in to our dinner – and I, unfortunately, forgot all about taking photos. I knew that there had been thousands of entries and that the awards were divided into several different categories. My publisher, Stephanie Patterson of Crooked Cat Books, and I, had decided that The House at Ladywell looked a good fit for Romantic Fiction and as I’ve reported previously – during the last year I was chuffed to find I’d escaped the Slush Pile, jumped out of the Long List in to first the Short List and then the Semi-Finals, all of which was very exciting and I really didn’t expect to get any further.

So there I was, happily diving in to my rather nice dinner when the Finalists of the Chatelaine Romantic Fiction Award were announced, with me among them. Wow! Off I went to collect my posh blue rosette and some techie-looking vouchers (still don’t understand them) and back to my table, covered in confusion and feeling stunned but slightly smug.

Apart from clapping other people enthusiastically I didn’t pay a lot of attention to the rest of the speeches because I was admiring my blue ribbon and thinking how clever I was, when I realised there was an expectant silence – whereupon the Engineer nudged me from one side, and the author on my other side did the same, and they both said: ‘It’s you!’ And what I was, it appeared, was the Grand Prize Winner in my category!  As the Resident Engineer said later, ‘It’s not often Nicky is lost for words!’


You know at the Oscars, the presenter opens an envelope – with a drum roll? This slightly crumpled notice on gold paper is what was in the envelope for my award announcement!





There’ll be photos, etc, soon from Chanticleer, the fabulous people who run the awards, and I’ll post some of my ‘what I did on my holiday‘ photos too, but in the meantime, here’s a handsome beastie. We visited an amazing reserve (North West Trek) when we left Bellingham and returned to Seattle for four nights. Hundreds of acres dedicated to native wild animals, including grey wolves, elk, bears and a herd of bison. This extremely large and elderly gent was lounging around as we went past in an electric tram and he wasn’t at all bothered by the intrusion. Elsewhere that morning a bison calf had been born but although we drove past the mother, she certainly wasn’t going to show off her baby to any passing strangers.

Soon there’ll be a shiny gold sticker on The House at Ladydwell and, I believe, some reviews it gathered along the way to the awards, but meantime, here’s a link to buy it (tell your friends!) mybook.to/TheHouseatLadywell

2018 A Year of Books

2018 was certainly all about books! The House at Ladywell had been published about six weeks before the New Year began so I was busily promoting the book and getting excited by the lovely reviews it was getting, (and still is, I’m glad to say!)

At the start of the new year I joined a writers’ collective, Ocelot Press, composed of fellow Crooked Cat authors, most of us writing historical novels. I haven’t yet published via Ocelot Press but certainly plan to do so in the future. Meanwhile I’m learning a lot about publishing! https://ocelotpress.wordpress.com Still in its infancy – and sorry, but we’re not accepting outside submissions

Early in January I retrieved my rights in all five of my books for Robert Hale as they had ceased trading and the publisher that took them over mostly produces non-fiction. I then signed with Williams & Whiting, a Sussex-based company with a penchant for crime (though not exclusively) so my three Charlotte Richmond Victorian mysteries were soon reissued with handsome new covers. They were followed shortly by the first two Harriet Quigley contemporary mysteries – all five books now being available in ebook form and – at last! – paperback.3charbooks

While this was going on I heard from Endeavour Media, publishers in 2016, of my third Harriet Quigley mystery, The Art of Murder, asking if I had anything else in my back list. Only Scuba Dancing, I said, and sent it to them after a bit of a tweak and tidy-up. I was delighted when they responded favourably and it’s due to be republished in February 2019. When first published by Transita Ltd in 2005, ebooks hadn’t taken off and although I self-published it as an ebook in 2013, I’m hoping this new edition will find new readers out there.

As if all this bookish activity wasn’t enough to be going on with, Crooked Cat Books accepted my gently cosy mystery, The Convalescent Corpse, a story of family, rationing and inconvenient corpses, set in 1918. This book came out in November and is beginning to garner some great reviews from readers who say they’ve laughed and cried and been charmed by the characters. I’m so glad people are loving this book..corpsecover3plusshout

The House at Ladywell has proved very popular with readers and has won some prizes, which is great. Discovered Diamond of the Month, book cover of the month for Vintage Treasures,

shortlisted for the Chatelaine award for historical and romantic fiction and now – a few days ago – the news that it’s a semi-finalist in this US-based award! The winner will be announced at the end of April at a convention in Bellingham, near Seattle, a place we haven’t visited, so the Resident Engineer and I are thinking it would be fun to go to that part of Washington state, taking in a day or two at Bellingham for the posh gala dinner! It’s a long way but we’re seasoned travellers so it would be fun.

The plan for 2019 is to take it more slowly, stop getting stressed about it all, and write the sequel to The Convalescent Corpse. I’ve written 15,000 words so far, though they don’t necessarily make sense and I doubt if they’re in the right order. I’m also hoping to write a short story or possibly a novella about Christmas at Ladywell, also in the very early stages so far. But who knows…

Also planned for this year are a couple of speaking engagements, one in June and the other in September, when I’ll be talking about one of my lifelong passions, books for girls and young women, ranging from Victorian to post WW2, and how they have influenced my own reading and writing. Being invited to speak on this topic is a bit like getting an Oscar, for me! The Deadly Dames will ride again at Portsmouth, in the spring, though sadly without one of our members, Eileen Robertson, who died suddenly before Christmas, and I’ll be on a panel at another bookish day in Portsmouth, this time talking about writing romantic novels.

And finally, here’s another of my passions – blue and white china, in this case it’s invalid feeders, mostly from Bohemia, now the Czech Republic, and dating from around 1900.


Blue & white invalid feeders, aka pap boats. I collect far too many things, most of them blue & white…

Here’s the link to my Amazon UK page – tell your friends! https://amzn.to/2ovRSKQ Find me (occasionally) on Twitter @nicolasladeuk and take a look at Pinterest https://www.pinterest.co.uk/nicola8703/ I’ve got boards for each of my books, with photos of people and places that inspired me

Life in 1918 – Recipes Part 1

Publication day is almost here. The Convalescent Corpse sets out on its journey on Tuesday, 20th November.  Actually, that’s the ebook, the paperback is already out there. I’m so pleased the powers-that-be at Crooked Cat Books, aka Steph and Laurence Patterson, liked my book and decided to publish it. It’s a story that’s been entertaining me for almost four years now, since the idea dropped into my head and wouldn’t leave me alone.

Publication Day – 20th November

Like other middle-class girls, the two elder Fyttleton sisters ‘put their hair up’ at eighteen, or in other words they stopped letting it hang loose or in pigtails, and pinned it up into a bun or a pompadour hairstyle. This signalled that they were now grown up. Working-class girls, of course, had to grow up a lot earlier and upper-class young ladies were presented as debutantes and thrust on to the marriage market. Not being wealthy, Alix, aged nineteen and Christabel who is eighteen, both have jobs and Adelaide, the youngest, is fifteen and still at school. The story begins a few months after the death of Alix’s twin brother Bertie who, as a young officer in the army, was killed on his and Alix’s nineteenth birthday.

I’d been thinking of doing some kind of photo shoot with the aid of my granddaughter Fliss, a keen photographer, when the arrival of a cousin, accompanied by her nineteen-year old daughter, inspired us to go back in time to Spring 1918. The girls in the book have a hairy brown dog called Bobs and, (not by coincidence) so does my daughter, so here he is – fresh from being immortalised in print – with Rosalie (who is in period, wearing a smart straw boater).

Straight out of 1918, ‘Christabel’ the narrator of The Convalescent Corpse, with Bobs the Labradoodle.

At the same time I decided to cook some of the dishes I’d found in an ancient pull-out supplement from Home Chat magazine dated March 1918 – in essence they’re hints on how to make cakes and puddings with mud, sawdust and tears – or in other words whatever you could find now that shortages and rationing were really biting.

This recipe for Syrup & Potato Pudding is one I didn’t use in the book, but it sounded too unappetizing to miss it out. Here it is, exactly as offered to hard-pressed cooks a hundred years ago – I made it so you don’t have to!

Syrup & Potato Pudding (If you are very short of fat you can, in any of the recipes for boiled or steamed puddings, use less fat and add just a little baking powder.)


Half a pound of mashed potatoes,

Four ounces of flour or substitute

Two ounces of chopped fat (any sort)

Two ounces of stale breadcrumbs

Half teaspoonful carbonate of soda

Three tablespoonfuls of treacle, or syrup, or jam

A little water or fruit juice

Mix the flour, fat, crumbs and soda. Lightly crumble in the potato.

Mix the syrup with three tablespoonfuls of water or fruit juice, and stir it in, adding as much more fluid as needed to make it drop heavily from the spoon.

Press into a greased basin, and cover with a greased paper. Steam for three hours.

Or make the mixture rather slacker, turn into a greased deep baking tin and back for about an hour to an hour-and-a-half.

I opted for the latter method, not having a pudding basin these days and anyway, I’m far too impatient to hang around for three hours. Here’s a photo of the finished masterpiece, served with a watery custard that’s also in the recipe pull-out.

As always, The Resident Engineer came to my rescue when nobody wanted to taste it – though Fliss kindly photographed it.

Syrup & Potato Pudding (I made it so you don’t have to)

Verdict? ‘Edible and filling, but heavy-going.’ Which is probably what the magazine readers thought at the time, but also what was needed then too.

 More authentic recipes to come in my next post. Fried porridge, anyone?

It’s available at only £1.99 (ebook) and £6.99 (paperback) An ideal Christmas present, if I do say so, for the relative or friend who loves gently funny histories and mysteries! Here’s the Amazon UK link https://amzn.to/2OskEpV


Q&A with Author C.J. Sutton – and from me – a Norwegian glacier!

I usually read the cosiest of cosy mysteries but here’s something very different – the forthcoming debut novel by my fellow Crooked Cat author, C. J. Sutton. (Due out 18th July, pre-order now!)

I recently sent him my 8 Quick Questions and here are his interesting responses – thank you, C.J!

Eight Quick Questions

  1. When you finish a new writing project, who is the first person you share it with?

I am very secretive when I finish a new book and generally keep most details away from family and friends, even during the submission process. Usually I will send my brother a text message with a brief outline as we share similar tastes in books and movies, and he will ask me questions about key characters and plot points. Once the cover art is available I’m very quick to post pictures on all facets of social media, but sharing my written work is something I’m still coming to terms with. I think my wife will probably want to start reading my novels before anyone else, so if you ask me this question in a year I will likely have a new answer.

  1. What is the best compliment you’ve ever received about your writing?

A university teacher once told me that my work was always read first because it put her in the mood to read. That always stayed with me. At the time I thought that if I could put someone with years of education in the mood to read, perhaps this would help in selling books to new readers. Compliments do fight against those darker days of writing, but if you take them too seriously you will end up doing the same with criticism. We all have our own voice and stories to share, so eventually you end up relying on instinct.

  1. Everyone has bad writing days (or weeks, or months). What do you do when you start to hate everything that you’ve written?

I tend to just stick at it. Sometimes the rhythm of words can get the plot points down on the page, and I can polish everything when I feel more creative. Pumping out those words is the most important part of the writing process for me, as editing is an aspect that comes quite naturally. A decent word count for the day can make a bad writing day seem productive. A coffee is also beneficial. I liken it to a re-assuring arm across the shoulder. If all else fails, I just go for a walk and think about football.

  1. We all cast our characters for that hypothetical film or tv deal. Which actor/s would you choose to play your main character/s?

Leonardo DiCaprio would have been perfect ten years ago, but as he’s nearing his mid-40s and the lead character is 30 I need to re-think the answer. As much as his Twilight days will follow him everywhere, Robert Pattinson has really impressed me with his recent body of work and he is capable of portraying such a complex and deep-thinking character. I would pitch him for a left-field shot at playing Dr Magnus Paul, the psychologist at the Asylum. For the main antagonist, inmate Jasper James, I would pitch Christian Bale or Tom Hardy. They can both play confronting characters and have demonstrated this over a number of years. For the unreliable guard Carter, hopefully Al Pacino feels capable of straining that voice once more.

  1. What do you enjoy most in the writing process? What parts of it do you really dislike?

I love writing dialogue. Speech is so important in reading, even if we don’t say the words out loud. I write in a way that tells the reader how words are being said by the character. This is achieved through grammar and this differs with each character. Writing criminally insane characters for Dortmund Hibernate required pauses in speech, capital letters to emphasise screaming and mumbled words. I do hope that readers enjoy the extra dimension this style adds to the novel.

I’m still finding ways to enjoy when the story becomes a product, which requires reading through the manuscript again and again to discover the smallest typo or grammar issue. The first edits are enjoyable, but the latter stages are like wading through a swamp. The only reason I dislike this is because the writing no longer feels fresh to me. I would compare it to listening to the same song over and over; no matter how good it is, you’ll eventually bang your head against the wall.

  1. Research is a vital part of writing. What is the most memorable or interesting thing you’ve learned along the way?

Researching criminally insane patients provided insight into some of the darkest minds the world has seen. The heavy reliance on drugs and electrotherapy throughout the 90s (and prior) was an aspect that I wanted to avoid in Dortmund Hibernate, preferring to focus on the minds and their crimes. I read through books on the likes of Charles Manson to understand how an unstable individual can lead a cult, and also continued my research into psychology. My notes are probably longer than the book.

  1. What’s the best piece of writing advice you’ve ever received? 

Write what you enjoy reading. If you’re interested and having fun, it doesn’t really matter if nobody else reads the book because you’ll have learned more about yourself. Obviously we all want to be successful and sell millions of copies, but what’s the point if the story doesn’t entertain you in some capacity? When you’re in a good space, your writing improves. I’m not sure where I first saw this piece of advice, but it has remained with me.

  1. Finally, in one sentence, tell us about your current project.

Dortmund Hibernate is the most mentally challenging, insane, soul destroying project I have ever worked on, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Insights into the way authors create their books is always intriguing. Find out more about C. J. Sutton and his work – and to pre-order Dortmund Hibernate at a bargain price:

Link to Amazon – https://amzn.to/2M76hGH





Just to prove I haven’t been idle lately, here’s a photo of a Norwegian glacier I saw lately!

To find my books, here’s my Amazon.co.uk page: https://amzn.to/2ovRSKQ







An intriguing French detective – and some shiny new covers!

The snow’s gone, and even if it comes back – not that likely down here in the Deep South aka Hampshire – there are daffodils and primroses in the garden, the random pheasant sits outside and shouts for his dinner, and the roe deer family peer over the garden fence almost daily. Spring is on its way so it’s time I stopped hibernating so I’m happy to welcome fellow Crooked Cat author, Angela Wren, to answer my 8 Quick Questions and tell us about her fascinating mysteries set in rural France.

  1. When you finish a new writing project, who is the first person you share it with?

My editor. I run a Writing Group and the various drafts of my stories are shared with the group and I get plenty of comment throughout the writing process.

  1. What is the best compliment you’ve ever received about your writing?

My stories are set in France and the absolutely best comments are those from people who have said they felt as though they were in France itself whilst reading my work.

  1. Everyone has bad writing days (or weeks, or months). What do you do when you start to hate everything that you’ve written?

I chuck whatever I’m writing in a drawer and leave it there for a week or two, or possibly longer.  I have one manuscript that has been in the drawer for two years!  Perhaps it will never come out.

  1. We all cast our characters for that hypothetical film or tv deal. Which actor/s would you choose to play your main character/s?

Actually, I haven’t even thought of that.  My central character, Jacques, would have to be French and whoever plays him would have to fit his physical description.  So, Gerard Depardieu is completely out of the running.  There was a gorgeous French tenor I saw in a production of the Pearl Fishers – now he would be perfect, except I can’t remember his name!

  1. What do you enjoy most in the writing process? What parts of it do you really dislike?

I absolutely love stringing the words together once I know what my story is. I can just disappear into my fictional world and stay there for days on end. I find editing particularly difficult and very tiring. I don’t exactly dislike it, because I know how essential a task it is. But if there was any part of the writing process that I could ditch, it would definitely be editing.

  1. Research is a vital part of writing. What is the most memorable or interesting thing you’ve learned along the way?

Discovering the Cévennes in south central France for the very first time. It’s the part of France where my stories are set and there’s a silence and loneliness there that I can’t seem to find anywhere else. It’s also an upland area, the scenery is spectacular, the villages are small and sparse and the weather can change in a moment.  A perfect place for murder, I think!

  1. What’s the best piece of writing advice you’ve ever received?

Never give up – if the story wants to be written it will be.

  1. Finally, in one sentence, tell us about your current project.

I’m in the final stages of completing book 3 (Montbel) in my Jacques Forêt series of stories which will be out later this year.

Thank you for visiting, Angela, I’m looking forward to meeting Jacques again!

Website : www.angelawren.co.uk

Blog : www.jamesetmoi.blogspot.com

Facebook : Angela Wren

Goodreads : Angela Wren

Contact an author : Angela Wren


And here are the shiny new covers of my Charlotte Richmond Mysteries, re-issued now by Williams & Whiting!